Woodstock 99, the cursed festival

From July 22 to 25, 1999, Rome, New York was the scene of a terrible fiasco. For Netflix, Jamie Crawford returns in three episodes of about an hour each to this anthology mayhem.

Arsons, looting, deluge of drugs, sexual assaults: Anthology Mayhem: Woodstock 99shocking documentary about Netflix, remember this American festival that has become a nightmare, a disaster still too little known and never represented until now in all its dysfunctions. The day after the event, at the end of July 1999, which was to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Woodstock Originally, television news from Paris to Tokyo succinctly broadcast only the thick plume of black smoke rising from a devastated site, symbolic of the fiasco.

The inventory of this tormented episode of the music industry only began to unfold in 2021 with a first documentary, Woodstock 99, peace, love and rage on HBO. Anthology Mayhem: Woodstock 99Directed by Jamie Crawford and offered on Netflix, dig deeper.

A mountain of testimonies is collected and references are crossed throughout three episodes of approximately one hour each (organizers, festival goers, journalists, rescuers, security agents, public health officials, etc.). Enough to offer a panoramic vision when only fragmentary memories remained of a time without social networks.


“It was the fall of Hanoi”, describes Tim Healy, television producer at the time at the venue, speaking of the last night. “It feels like apocalypse now»exclaims in archive footage Anthony Kiedis, leader of the Hot Red Chilies when the band returns to the stage for the encore. Fires then multiply on the site.

Thousands of festival goers (advertisers at the time numbered a total of 250,000 people), handed out 100,000 candles, lit bonfires and threw anything that could burn at them. Just drunk or drunk with rage after getting a massage in terrible conditions on a former military airbase in upstate New York. The organization’s truck tanks parked farther away will burst into flames as looters attack, among other things, the merchandising area and ATMs.

How did we get here? Lee Rosenblatt, 22 at the time, the site’s assistant manager notes “greed” officers: “We take advantage of these children.”

The organizers are miguel langfounding father of the 1969 Woodstock (recently deceased) and his “powerful partner” for the 30th anniversary, John Scher, promoter. Both testify in Anthology Mayhem: Woodstock 99. The former seems overwhelmed by the monster-event created while the latter admits his motivations: “It was absolutely necessary to make a profit.”

A 65-cent bottle of water in the city sells for $4 at the festival, while festival-goers are forced to empty their water bottles upon reaching the site’s paved track heated to white by temperatures of over 35°.

“There are not enough security guards”

At the same time, organization costs were reduced. Samples taken by the health services will reveal that the few sources of drinking water have become dirty with excrement.

“Woodstock 99 didn’t have enough decent security guards…they wanted to be stingy”, still denounces Colin Spear, in the production of the time. He makes no secret that, celebrating his 29th birthday during the festival, he will take ecstasy offered by a festival goer. Drugs circulate too freely, security personnel have been hastily recruited and insufficiently trained. The National Guard will be called to the rescue at the end of the festival.

But Woodstock 99 is already in the middle of the rave under a shed. Star DJ Fatboy Slim’s set has been stopped: a festival goer has hijacked a van and is slowly driving through the audience.

AJ Srybnik, supervisor of the rave at the time, tells Netflix that the reveler-driver behind the wheel is in a daze. This manager discovers “disgusted” in the back of the van “a girl of 15 or 16 years (…) pants around her ankles, fainted” while a young man dresses next door. The American media will end up talking about “rape accusations”in a pre-#MeToo era where festival sexual assaults are swept under the rug.

SEE ALSO – [2019] Beginning of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock

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